That’s why you will not survive

What’s the point of having political reporters then? Why not cut out the middleman, get free from the middleman, and just reprint press releases from each party? (From today’s Kaplan reporter chat):

Reader:Paul, I’m guessing you won’t be sympathetic to the following point, but I’ll put it out there anyway. Most reporting on the supercommittee–like most reporting on the deficit–reflects an acceptance of a basic fallacy. Whenever there is an impasse, there seems to be a desire to blame both sides equally, on the theory that if only Democrats would concede more, Republicans would reciprocate (all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding). Yes, Democrats have drawn lines in the sand, but as Greg Sargent and other commentators have documented, when you compare the specifics, there is no factual basis for blaming both parties equally. So my question is, why does the Post’s coverage do so anyway, either explicitly or implicitly?

Paul Kane: Yeah, you’re right. I think this point is just absurd and ridiculous. This is a big thing among folks calling it “moral equivalence” (Fallows, Ornstein) and others calling it the “cult of balance” (Krugman).

It’s just stupid. If you want someone to tell you that Republicans stink, read opinion pages. Read blogs. Also, the underlying sentiment on the left is that this is the real reason why things went wrong in 2010: That the mainstream media is to blame. Sorry, I think that’s the sorta head-in-sand outlook that leads to longer term problems for a movement.

Greg is a fine writer. He’s an opinion writer, in the opinion section of the web site. I encourage you to keep reading him. And I encourage you to keep reading the news coverage, which should always strive to present both sides of the story. If you really don’t want to hear anything about the other side of the story, I really do encourage you to stop reading the news section.

In other words, accurately describing what is going on, that’s opinion writing. Just stating what each believes, that’s journalism.

I tend to believe that in the end, if you want people to consume your stuff, you have to add value. Where’s the added value in transcribing what each party says about things? I could easily just go to the RNC and DNC websites and read what is written there.

I can’t see how outlets like the Washington Post will exist at all in a few years, except as full-time propagandists in favor of for-profit education. Even then, you could catapult that propaganda more effectively if you put out a higher quality product on the topics that don’t touch on your business interests.






59 replies
  1. 1
    Commenting at Ballon Juice since 1937 says:

    There’s a reason no one has heard of Paul Kane, and why the words Paul Kane and Pulitzer will never be uttered in the same sentence.

  2. 2
    Citizen_X says:

    It’s just stupid.

    Now there’s a cogent, well-thought out argument. Nice dollop of condescension, too. Way to engage your reader’s concerns, there, Kane!

  3. 3
    Enceladus says:

    Nice how Kane completely ignored this part of the reader’s question: “when you compare the specifics, there is no factual basis for blaming both parties equally.”

    So basically, no matter what the facts are, there will always be balanced and equivalent blame to go around. Just because.

  4. 4
    comrade scott's agenda of rage says:

    As Doug can attest to, Kane’s been writing this shi for years now and when called out on it in a chat, reverts to “your head is in the sand and we parrot both side’s talking points.” statements as his justification for being a shitty reporter who’s management is scared shitless of the right.

    He might not win a Pulitzer but then again, he could. I say that because one of the (com)Posts more odious reporters of recent years, good ole Jim Vandehei, is on the Pulitzer Board. In fact, Kane’s pretty much of the “school” of Vandehei.

    I live for the day when the (com)Post goes behind a pay wall and discovers no one follows them. Stenographers like Kane, Perry Bacon Bits, Ann Kornblut, et al are shining examples of that ilk.

  5. 5
    David in NY says:

    Yeah, I never heard of him either, thank God. Does he think that reporters have no duty to find out what’s true, what’s really happening? To what degree each party took constructive or obstructionist positions? If that’s his position, he needs a different job.

  6. 6
    BGinCHI says:

    In other words, accurately describing what is going on, that’s opinion writing. Just stating what each believes, that’s journalism.

    When they dig through the rubble to find out what was going on in politics in the early 21st century, this is what they will find to be the truth.

    Where it leads us is the question.

    I’m tempted to go Godwin, but I don’t want to malign German media from the Weimar period.

  7. 7
    Butch says:

    Charles P. Pierce in Idiot America compares the “balance” issue to seeing a man with a bird on his shoulder and looking around until you can find someone willing to swear it’s actually a bird with a man stuck to its feet.

  8. 8
    Eljai says:

    How timely! I just got through yelling at NPR for doing that lazy reporting thing. (I must remember to switch my car radio back to the all-jazz station.) So, the NPR reporter blamed the super committee impasse on congressional dysfunction. Then he went on to say that if no agreement is reached, unemployment benefits will not be extended. Hey NPR reporter, I have a question for you. Which members of congress don’t want unemployment benefits extended? It’s not all of them. I know you know the answer.

  9. 9
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Paul Kane is a superb example of why the logical course of action to take with the WaPo is to surround the building, allow Sergant and Robinson to leave, then insure that nothing living ever escapes the smoking ruin.

  10. 10
    schrodinger's cat says:

    I have stopped reading WaPo to preserve my sanity.

  11. 11
    jl says:

    The most charitable interpretation is that Kane has VSP syndrome, which is related the Merchant Banker syndrome, and he just does not understand certain concepts. There are other possibilities, but discussion of any of them might be considered uncivil, and unfit for a family blog like BJ

    Merchant Banker
    http://pythonline.com/youtube_.....ant-banker

    VSP syndrome is worse than Merchant Banker syndrome, because this guy’s complete lack of comprehension about what reporting is happens to concern the dude’s publicly announced job description.

  12. 12
    Cat Lady says:

    Well, he did say to read blogs and to stop reading the news if you don’t like “both sides do it” reporting, so everyone should take him at his word.

  13. 13
    Tractarian says:

    @Citizen_X:

    It’s just stupid.

    Now there’s a cogent, well-thought out argument.

    Hey, that’s not fair. I mean, he also said reporting facts as opposed to he-said-she-said is “absurd” and “ridiculous.” That’s a well-thought out argument, right?

  14. 14
    Tractarian says:

    Paul Kane is a superb example of why the logical course of action to take with the WaPo is to surround the building, allow Sergant and Robinson to leave, then insure that nothing living ever escapes the smoking ruin.

    Tsk tsk tsk. How uncivil of you. That sorta thing really is part and parcel of the sorta head-in-sand outlook that leads to longer term problems for a movement, doncha know, wink wink.

  15. 15
    The Snarxist Formerly Known as Kryptik says:

    The grave of responsible journalism has ‘Fair and Balanced’ etched on it’s tombstone.

    I’m seriously and honestly waiting for that infamous ‘Shape of Earth: Opinions Differ’ headline to become reality within the next 2 or 3 years. They’ve become that fucking stupid.

  16. 16
    Anoniminous says:

    Both the Washington Post and New York Times had their credit rating adjusted downward.

    WaPo has gone from stable to negative.

    NYT on the other hand:

    Moody’s also warned recently that The New York Times Co. is in danger of having its unsecured debt and commercial paper downgraded to junk status if cash flow doesn’t improve soon.

    With ad and circulation revenue falling the debt these companies are carrying is becoming unsupportable.

  17. 17
    Ecks says:

    @jl: Or it could just be a bad case of the View from Nowhere (as Jay Rosen calls it) – the notion that there is no truth, no real place to report from. there’s just the truth put out by D’s and the truth put out by R’s, and if you call one of them definitively right or wrong you are taking sides, and that makes you a partisan and not an independent observer. The rules require him not to have any opinions or factual judgments of his own other than judgments of immediate surface political appearances (e.g., this side won the election, that speech sounded angry).

    It’s the partisan’s jobs to have opinions – the world is round and getting warmer, tax cuts would worsen the deficit, the other guys are intransigent – and it’s the reporter’s job to note that these opinions are in conflict, and to observe the impact that this conflict seems to have on whether legislation is going to get passed, or elections won/lost. What does the reporter believe? Nothing. They aren’t allowed to. If they do then they’re picking sides, and no longer an impartial observer floating above the fray feeling smug at their fully paid up membership in the church of the savvy (another Rosen term).

  18. 18
    Rafer Janders says:

    And I encourage you to keep reading the news coverage, which should always strive to present both sides of the story.

    Aarrrggghh!!! No! No! A thousand times no! The purpose of news coverage is NOT “to present both sides of the story” — it should be (but most often is not) to present the ACCURATE story.

    During the Rwanda genocide, should news coverage have reflected both sides of the story? “Tutsis claim Hutus are murdering them without cause, but Hutus claim Tutsis are terrorist cockroaches who were conspiring with foreign enemies and who need to be exterminated to build a healthy Rwanda. Join our fair, even-handed coverage as we give equal time to both points of view, with no judgment or signal as to which might be right.”

  19. 19
    Joel says:

    Elspeth Reeve had a similarly half-hearted defense of false equivalence in the Atlantic recently.

  20. 20
    Ecks says:

    @Anoniminous: To be completely fair, that likely has a lot less to do with their editorial stances than it does with the internet undermining the economic model that newspapers work on. They used to have local monopolies on disseminating news for a reasonable weekly fee, bundling it together with car and real estate advertising and personal ads, etc.

    Now everyone gets their news for free, and doesn’t have to pay for all the parts of the newspaper they don’t want, and if they want to advertise to local punters they can skip the newspaper and put something on craigslist or pay for a web ad that is way cheaper and doesn’t provide nearly the same revenue.

    They could start doing the best journalism ever in the world, and it would only save them to a very limited extent. It costs a lot of money to have war reporters in every hot spot, and economic reporters in all the major capitals. Free news doesn’t cover that.

  21. 21
    Rafer Janders says:

    I tend to believe that in the end, if you want people to consume your stuff, you have to add value. Where’s the added value in transcribing what each party says about things?

    No one was a bigger fan of the NY Times than I was, but even I find that in recent years, I tend to skip over their straight news reports on US domestic politics, knowing that I’ll get a better picture of what’s actually going on from blogs such as this one. So yeah, no value added to my life, and if that’s the case, what am I paying my subscription fee for?

  22. 22
    Splitting Image says:

    Even then, you could catapult that propaganda more effectively if you put out a higher quality product on the topics that don’t touch on your business interests.

    This reminded me of something I thought of last time I looked at SurveyUSA’s website. It seems that their main revenue stream is doing quality market research for private companies. The political polling they do is something to demonstrate the company’s effectiveness at accurately polling the marketplace. I suppose they could pick up a few bucks from one of the two political parties by fudging their numbers one way or the other, but they would damage their brand where it matters.

  23. 23
    jayjaybear says:

    I think that’s the part that scares me the most…we’re becoming a society that doesn’t believe in facts. Or, more accurately, a society that believes that facts are rude. It’s better to politely parrot both sides of an argument or issue, even when there IS only one actual true side.

    When I was a student activist in the 90s at Penn State (yes, shut up, I hate what happened and was glad to see him go) and we used to get the conservative student paper publishing screaming editorials against things like National Coming Out Day or a Gay Rights rally, complaining that we (the LGBSA) weren’t allowing “the other side” to speak up at our rally, we countered it by noting that rallies and marches against domestic violence never invited wife-beaters to attend and speak. There IS only one side to those issues, and anyone who tries to claim that there are more is clouding the whole thing with bullshit. But now the media, who once at least tried to dig out facts and make them known, honors the bullshit with equivalent credibility as the truth.

    I can’t help but fear that the roots of our destruction are in that formula.

  24. 24
    Kurosakih says:

    And this is why these people are too frightened to allow followup questions. If they did, this guy would have to deal with the natural response, which is, “But, Paul, perhaps you missed the part where I said that the problem is that there’s no factual basis for what you are reporting. I’m looking for why you don’t feel able to report facts. By excluding relevant facts, you are presenting your readers with an opinion masquerading as straight reporting, and presenting them with a materially misleading opinion at that. Could you explain why you do this?”

    So much easier to not let anyone question that initial, evasive response.

  25. 25
    slag says:

    as Greg Sargent and other commentators have documented, when you compare the specifics, there is no factual basis for blaming both parties equally.

    So, here, the interrogator argues that Greg Sargent compares specifics and makes a claim based on facts.

    Greg is a fine writer. He’s an opinion writer, in the opinion section of the web site.

    And, here, the responder argues that engaging in such activities is actually writing opinion.

    This looking glass is confusing.

  26. 26
    Steve says:

    Well, he thinks it’s good journalism, you think it’s bad journalism. Perspectives vary.

  27. 27
    Redshift says:

    @Eljai: I was pleasantly surprised this morning that the top-of-the-hour NPR news stated plainly that the reason for the supercommittee failure was intransigence on revenue, followed by a long quote from Patty Murray. I guess the balance-meisters must have gotten to them since then and made them understand that it was necessary to balance the truth with lies…

  28. 28
    Redshift says:

    @jayjaybear: Yeah, it’s pretty frightening. Since the facts have a well-known liberal bias, apparently the only way to be unbiased is to pretend there are no facts.

  29. 29
    Thymezone says:

    I can’t see how outlets like the Washington Post will exist at all in a few years, except as full-time propagandists in favor of for-profit education. Even then, you could catapult that propaganda more effectively if you put out a higher quality product on the topics that don’t touch on your business interests.

    That’s a very interesting suggestion. I think if you drill down on that and track it carefully, and talk to the media insiders (the news directors and editors, for example) you will find out that the drivers are ratings and dollars. If an outlet profits by being a transport device for party or candidate talking points, then that’s what they will do. If their business model said that real journalism drove profits, then they would do that. It’s that simple. No media outlet of any kind currently in existence is going to go down any path that does not favor readership, viewership, ratings, and therefore, profits. Period, dot. You can rage against it all you want, that’s the way it works and has always worked. It worked for Hearst a century ago, and it works for Fox and CNN and WaPo and all the rest of them today. It isn’t new, it’s tried and true.

    In this Republic, the concept of acting and choosing in one’s self interest starts with the politicians and the media. Since they have the power and the audience, it is their interests which must get served first. We’ve been saying this for years.

    Isn’t it time to stop clucking our tongues over the same old crap every day, and actually do something about it?

    Just a thought.

  30. 30
    Thymezone says:

    @Redshift:

    When I was a kid and surrounded by farm people, they’d say, you have to learn to tell shit from shinola.

    Now we know that the distinction is not key, that the truth lies exactly halfway between shit and shinola.

  31. 31
    BBA says:

    “There are two sides to every issue, just like there are two sides to every sheet of paper,” I write on a Möbius strip.

  32. 32

    @Thymezone:
    Given than, do you have a suggestion? We’ve gotten here with a half-century of “liberal media” horseshit from one bunch. I’m not too sure a half-century of counter argument is soon enough.

  33. 33
    James Gary says:

    @DougJ–Just letting you know I caught the Spoon reference in the title. (I feel it is important you realize the less-mainstream lyrics references are appreciated, so you don’t shift entirely to Stones/Clash/Costello lines that everyone gets immediately.)

  34. 34
  35. 35
    smintheus says:

    When I teach the end of the Roman Republic, I report what Caesar’s people said, what Pompey’s people said, and just leave it at that. I don’t see a problem here.

  36. 36
    Bullsmith says:

    Kane’s straw man is that we libs don’t want to know what Republicans are saying, when in fact what we want is to know what they’re saying AND WHETHER OR NOT IT’S A GIAGANTIC FLAMING PILE OF BULLSHIT. In fact I’d like to know when anyone lies, regardless of their politics. Honesty and integrity are very good reasons to vote for someone, as it turns out. I want to know factually, not as an opinion. For instance, when someone says Obama raised taxes, grew the government and now plans to transfer the Federal Government to Paris, they are not mistaken, they are liars. Pointing out that Democrats called them liars while Republicans swore on their mistress’ boob jobs that they’re honest as apple pie is not reporting. In fact it is helping to spread and reinforce falsehoods.

    Surely Kane knows this. Beneath all his layers of ennui and cynicism, surely he can see that one party is miles ahead of the other in trusting him, personally, to repeat their lies without letting on he knows they’re are nothing but malicious falsehoods. Deference to the ‘winning side’ (even if they lose) has become the WaPo’s guiding principle. Irony ain’t dead, it’s being tortured, slowly, forever.

  37. 37
    Thymezone says:

    @Chuck Butcher:

    My suggestion turns on who I am talking to. If I am talking to Doug, who has a front page seat on a small but well regarded political blog, I would suggest, as I have been doing for something on the order of seven years here, that we stop focussing obsessively on the minutiae of what idiots like Broder and Sullivan are saying each day, and focus on what the truths are, and elevate those truths and then demand that the truth be given its day.

    If I am talking to commenters here, my suggestion would be to hold Doug and all of them to that standard. Stop being lazy and writing snark about whatever Broderish shit that so and so wrote today in his column or blog, and instead focus on what the truth is, and elevate the truth and demand that the truth be given its day.

    Or, if you like slogans … Occupy The Blogosphere.

  38. 38

    @jayjaybear:

    I think that’s the part that scares me the most…we’re becoming a society that doesn’t believe in facts. Or, more accurately, a society that believes that facts are rude.

    This has been freaking me out for a while now. I know how to talk to people with whom I have a difference of opinion. I have no idea whatsoever how to talk with someone who doesn’t accept that some things are facts.

  39. 39
    Thymezone says:

    @Chuck Butcher:

    Because, Chuck, we KNOW WHAT THE GODDAM TRUTH IS. So why focus on who told the ugliest lie today? Focus on the truth. The world is already full of people who want to tell, and bark about, lies. Lies are a dime a dozen, and liars are everywhere. So why waste time counting and classifying liars?

  40. 40
  41. 41
    Ecks says:

    @Bullsmith: That’s a very well parsed analysis.

  42. 42

    I told WaPo why I was cancelling my subscription, that I wanted truth told and they weren’t bothering. I don’t think I’m alone. I like BJ and all, but what I’m more interested in is what methodologies you’d suggest for affecting WaPo and others.

    I’m not sure I see the contradiction you do in showing the lie and comparing it to the truth and mocking. Yes, I asked the question honestly, since I’m stuck at cancelling and mocking and I don’t see that doing much and I do think print news is important.

  43. 43
    Thymezone says:

    @TooManyJens:

    Call them out and catalogue their particular facts. Here’s a crude example.

    If you are talking to someone who suggests that science is flawed and not to be trusted, ask them where they take their kids when they are sick. To a faith healer, or a doctor trained in science? The true answer is probably the latter. So there is a fact they cannot escape from: They themselves, when it’s important, rely on science, just like we do. Then shove that fact hard and deep up their asses until they scream.

    Okat, that last part is just my own personal style. Once you have them at that point, then proceed as you see fit. You’ll know what to do then.

    If their answer is the faith healer, then you can point out that if their kid dies, they can go to jail for making that choice, and work it that way. Facts are facts, and child abuse is child abuse. That sort of thing. And if they double down, and say that they choose to live outside our laws and ways, then fine … tell them to get their mitts off our government and our politics, because they have no right to them if all they want to do is tear them down. We built this city, if you don’t like it, go away. I have no regrets about telling people who are basically anti-democratic (small d) and anti-American to get the hell out. I treat them as they are, as passive aggressive terrorists and enemies. But that’s just me, I am pretty obnoxious.

  44. 44

    @Thymezone:

    I am pretty obnoxious.

    awww, you’re so cute…

    Then there’s me…

  45. 45

    Speaking of obscure songs, DougJ, you gots to get in on cleek’s current song quiz. It’s indie as fuck and I’m still kicking ass, a situation that really should not stand.

  46. 46
    Thymezone says:

    @Chuck Butcher:

    I defer to experience :)

  47. 47
    mk3872 says:

    This is EXACTLY where conservatives have won the domestic battles in this country. Now media outlets like the POST have completely bought into the idea that the media MUST repeat things exactly as they are read to them. If they call it BS, then they are LIBERAL MEDIA. Gr8!

  48. 48
    Seonachan says:

    In other words, accurately describing what is going on, that’s opinion writing. Just stating what each believes, that’s journalism.

    Call it the Driveway/Parkway theorem of the corporate media.

  49. 49
    El Cid says:

    __

    I tend to believe that in the end, if you want people to consume your stuff, you have to add value. Where’s the added value in transcribing what each party says about things? I could easily just go to the RNC and DNC websites and read what is written there.

    I’ve been saying this over and over for years. From just a bit ago, more same sorry excuses by “journalists” for why the stenography they do is “journalism”.

    If what journalists think they need to do is quote “both sides”, then it’s not a good argument for why their job is “value added” over press releases from politicians’ websites.
    __
    I don’t need some fucking nitwit from ABC quoting a ‘source’ when it’s the same shit I can read from Cantor’s webpage. Or a House GOP e-mail or blog.
    __
    In fact, you could have Cantor himself quoting from “an unnamed House Republican source”, and then quoting “several Democratic leaders,” and then the job of the journalist entirely substituted by Eric Cantor.

  50. 50
    RalfW says:

    I watched the local newscasts at 6pm tonight for the first time in months. They all had some variant on the both sides do it meme. They mentioned that each side needed to compromise to get an agreement, but not one of them bothered to say that the Democrats put dozens of things on the table to negotiate, and each one was tossed aside by the GOP in favor of more tax cuts. Every. Single. Compromise. Ignored by the GOP.

    But Paul Kane would tell me that is my opinion.

    What a useless bit of twaddle he is.

  51. 51
    Spike says:

    @James Gary: It can’t all be wedding cake.

  52. 52
    kc says:

    “I really do encourage you to stop reading the news section”

    Well, if you insist…

  53. 53
    TG Chicago says:

    “In other words, accurately describing what is going on, that’s opinion writing. Just stating what each believes, that’s journalism.”

    Loved that bit. Thanks, DougJ!

  54. 54
    low-tech cyclist says:

    No point in arguing with the WaPo stenography team. They’ve got no time for the messenger, got no regard for the things that they don’t understand.

    (ETA: Damn, this really IS a perfect song for them, isn’t it? Including the ‘cut out the middleman’ reference in Doug’s post.)

  55. 55
    Comrade Javamanphil says:

    I think Paul Kane is an ignorant moron who doesn’t understand the basic responsibility of journalism. But in the interest of presenting both sides, I hear his mom thinks he’s a nice boy.

  56. 56
    Nathanael says:

    @Thymezone: But actually the traditional media are driving themselves straight into bankruptcy. So, no, they aren’t doing what gives them profits.

    Providing half-decent news coverage which attracts people to your paper/site, handing it out for free, and getting paid advertising because advertisers want to reach your circulation… that is, and has always been, the profit-making model. Amazingly, most of the traditional “news” media is *not executing this strategy*, and their reward is declining circulation!

  57. 57
    Nathanael says:

    @TooManyJens: “I have no idea whatsoever how to talk with someone who doesn’t accept that some things are facts”

    If possible, use their delusions to talk them into killing themselves. This is harder with some delusions than others (anti-vaxxers and gun nuts… relatively easy; creationists… relatively hard). OK, so I’m not very friendly to such people.

  58. 58
    John B. says:

    @Ecks: So, you’re saying that newspapers are doing so poorly, financially, that they can’t afford good reporters and so are compelled to get by through hire halfwits like Paul Kane?

  59. 59
    John B. says:

    Someone should ask Kane — and others who think as he does — this direct question: “Where a candidate had produced a demonstrably false advertisement, will you report it as a lie or repeat it as “one side” of the story?
    Cite: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.....08631.html

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